This article is not meant to be an exhaustive display of racism in the Muslim community only a sampling of my experience and my proposed solution. What I love about Islam in its perfect form is the inclusion, diversity and permissibility of everything that is good for human beings. That’s why over 17 years ago after research and a period of resistance to any organized religion, I decided that it was the best way of life for me. So there I was as a new wife, new mother and now new Muslim. The special part about being an African American married to a Bengali and being a woman in a Muslim community is the equivalent of being unseen. Socializing in the Muslim community is far more complex than dealing with the larger society. There is the Bengali-Pakistani dispute; the Arab – Indo Pak dispute; within each ethnicity the skin color issue but universally everyone looks down on all of African descent especially at the intersection of African – American. Fortunately, my husband’s family is one that practices non-ethnocentric Islam…the way the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him actually lived and taught.
A few weeks ago, I attended the play Not Without My Hijab, a stage adaptation of the book written by Halimah de Olivera an African American Muslim. Overwhelmingly, although women struggling with hijab is a Muslim issue, the attendees and supporters were also African American. Daily, Muslim women of all shades, ethnicities and age have suffered in some way for choosing to wear hijab. Not to mention within the Muslim community there is the non-hijabi/ hijabi “gang”. In this day and age, that theatre should have been overflowing but it was ⅓ full. The next day we had a brunch, an intimate roundtable directly with the author if you will, again sparsely attended. Such an important issue for every Muslim woman. Why did it have a 90% African American support?
When we have have Health Fairs or Health and Wellness Conferences, as a Holistic Life Coach, I have pitched my business but rarely selected. When the final announcement is made, usually a Pakistani or Arab is chosen. Recently, I was an exhibitor and an Arab exhibitor in a similar field was not only offered a table in the main hall but also given the option of doing a presentation although I am an international bestselling author and speaker. She just started her business a few months ago and has never given a public presentation.
When I travel internationally without my family, I well taken care of by my white counterparts and this raises the eyebrows of my brothers and sisters in Islam. However, if I were to rely on care from them especially in Asia or the Middle East, I would be treated worse than I am in the United States. I am safer with my white colleagues than I am with my own brothers and sisters in Islam.
Fortunately, I became Muslim for the sake of my soul and having a relationship with Allah. Otherwise, like most African American reverts, I would have left the deen years ago. The world needs Muslims right now more than ever. People are looking for answers in spirituality and seeking the truth. But we are a mass of confusion, in fighting and self-loathing cloud wavering and hiding. We are meant to be the light in the world. It has to start with each of us individually.
Here are 3 tips to start loving for your Black sister or brother in Islam what you love for yourself.
- After you make wudu for fajr, take a moment and look into your eyes and say I love you for the sake of Allah with conviction.
- Smile and hug yourself feeling the gratitude for your existence, strength, blessings and good health. When you are in sujjud, make dua that Allah open your heart to the the deen and keep it firm.
- When you see other your Black Muslimahs and Muslims, say “As salaamu alaykum” with the same smile you gave yourself including the love and gratitude for their existence. Be sure to linger so that they can see and feel your intention.
It starts with loving yourself and embodying gratitude so that you can radiate that all in one smile. Remember your smile is a charity. Islam came to cure the diseases of the hearts of men and women not to perpetuate them. It is the purest form of love.